Paula Rowan, World of Wearable Arts

WoW – how disappointing

STOP PRESS: It appears Paula Rowan had received WoW’s
approval to base her entry (right) on the painting (left).
See UPDATE below. I didn’t know that when I wrote this post.

Looking at the above double-take, there’s a pun I’ve always liked that seems to fit.

Bubonic plagiarism.

Cute, huh?

As a wordsmith, I’d love you to think I dreamed that up myself.

But if I let you believe that, I’d soon be in deep schtuck.

That’s because a lawyer called Murphy would make me pay dearly.

Under Murphy’s Law, one of you dear readers would be seized with the urge to re-peruse your 1973 edition of Austin Mitchell’s Half-Gallon, Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise.

And when you got to the lower reaches of the first paragraph of page 82, you would see it.

I’ll quote the whole passage for political reasons — the 39 year old subject matter sounds eerily current!:

The National Party pays for opinion polls so it knows the result in advance and judges its policy accordingly.

When it is certain it is going to win (as in 1966) it will denounce all Labour’s policies in advance of the poll and then implement them quietly afterwards.

When more doubtful (as in 1969) it will go in for really bubonic plagiarism and either implement Labour’s policies in advance or include them in its manifesto.

Some things never change, do they? 🙂

But this post is about plagiarism, not politics.

As soon as you laid eyes on the words ‘bubonic plagiarism’, your opinion of my originality would plummet.

You would forever more think of me as, well, a bubonic plagiarist.

And that, sadly, is how I will now think of Paula Rowan.

Paula is the Wellington designer I praised to the heavens on this blog not three weeks ago for her stunning, yet curiously unplaced, entry in the 2012 World of Wearable Arts Awards.

I thought she deserved better. And said so.

Kiwiblog’s David Farrar had already said so.

And 814 Dominion Post readers went on to say so, by voting Paula’s Velluto Rosso their WoW People’s Choice by a wide margin.

But sadly, the brilliantly simple idea that anchored Paula’s creation was not Paula’s.

She’d found it in a painting by Vladimir Kush.

And so, she was forced to hand back her prize or be disqualified.

Perhaps Paula Rowan is not dishonest.

Perhaps she genuinely believed that she was allowed to copy an idea from another medium and adapt it for the catwalk.

But to me, while her execution was beautiful, the real beauty of her creation was the idea — Vladimir Kush’s idea.

I’ve judged advertising awards, and people who are caught pinching others’ ideas rarely live down the shame.

Maybe the WoW judges knew what they were doing after all.

UPDATE: A friend of Paula Rowan’s has commented as follows:

“As you have said, yes, Paula is a wonderful designer and one to be highly looked upon.

However, what you have written is not the full story.

Paula ran her idea past the judges before she created it, with a copy of the painting.

The WOW committee said that it would be fine and to go ahead with it.

A few weeks into making her garment, she did it again, just to be sure.

And once again, WOW said to go ahead.

Paula is not in the wrong here. WOW is the one in the wrong. WOW was the one who made the mistake, Paula did nothing wrong.

WOW is the one who should be in the spotlight, NOT Paula.”

If that is indeed the case, then I feel for Paula. I have had a similar experience recently with a certain Rotary club. 🙂

I would say, though, that while it appears as though Paula acted with absolute integrity, it would have been nice if the catalogue had mentioned that the human purse idea originated elsewhere.

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David Farrar, Wellington, World of Wearable Arts

If only the WOW judges shared Farrar’s and my good taste

On Friday I lucked into a free ticket to World of Wearable Arts — on awards night!

Out of a blizzard of jawdroppingly dazzling entries, these two velvet and gold characters ‘WOWed’ me the most.

Clinging together like limpets doing a kind of shuffly waltz, gilded domes entwined, the point of it all was at first a mystery.

Then they shuffled into the spotlight, untwined their necks, leaned back, and became…

…a human purse!

In the ad world, award judges tend to bypass irrelevant complexity and honour the surprising and the simple.

So with complexity abundant and simplicity scarce, I thought Velluto Rosso by Wellington’s Paula Rowan, would clean up.

And so, I read on Kiwiblog, did David Farrar. And 3 News too, who showcased this entry on their website.

How telling that three amateur pundits should all recognise the power of the big idea.

Yet the judges did not.

They plumped for the complex, and the human purse was out of the money.

David describes the rest of the spectacular night well — an astonishing achievement for our small city.

I’ve always giggled at the tag ‘Coolest Little Capital’, since the only other ‘little’ capitals are Canberra, Reykjavik and Suva.

But with WOW, the Sevens and the breath-defying creations of Weta Workshop, Wellington must surely be the Fancy Dress Capital of the Universe.

Architecture, Basin Reserve, Beehive, Dominion Post, Kilbirnie Indoor Sports Centre, Taj Mahal toilets, The Cake Tin

The Evans Bay Turtle

What is it about Wellington and its circular landmarks with eccentric nicknames?

The under-50s won’t remember when the twin-domed Welsh Dragon Bar in the middle of Kent and Cambridge Terraces used to be a public toilet block, known by all as the Taj Mahal.

At the far end of the same dual-dragstrip is the Basin Reserve, so named after the 1855 earthquake turned Basin Lake into a swamp, which the council then turned into a sports reserve.

Over in Thorndon there’s the parliamentary Beehive, which Sir Basil Spence designed on the back of a serviette. And the Cake Tin, named by yours truly in response to a call for a nickname by the Evening Post’s Angus Morrison.

(Note: popular rumour has it that the Cake Tin was named by an Auckland talk show host, which is why it wasn’t popular for a long time with Wellingtonians. Still others say it was Andrew Mehrtens. Being a rather obvious name, it was probably all three of us.)

And now we have a new stadium to name: the Kilbirnie Indoor Sports Centre in Evans Bay. It’s not quite circular, but near enough.

The Dom Post’s Hank Schouten is calling for nicknames, so I sent in this letter:

Like the Cake Tin, the new Kilbirnie Indoor Sports Centre is a good example of smooth, single-minded design.

Now, what to call it?

I worry that the architects’ favourite, The Limpet, while anatomically accurate, might be a bit, well, limp to catch on.

So what about the Saucer (as in flying), the Clam, the Oyster, the Stingray, the Flounder, the Slater or the Frisbee?

(Had they built it where Councillor Andy Foster wanted, it could have been the Downtown Indoor Sports Centre — DISC.)

A friend of mine argues noisily for The Trilobite, a creature I had not heard of, but which it clearly resembles.

But the nickname with the best combination of stickability and seaside relevance would have to be the Turtle.

What do you think? Feel free to suggest a name of your own. I may run a poll of the best of them.

But to me, if I squint as I drive round the bays I see a beached, bleached white turtle shell whose occupant is wisely staying indoors.

(As well he might. When I drove past on Monday, there was thick snow just around the corner in Shelly Bay.)

Peter Jackson, Wellington, Wellywood

Welly, where’s your sense of humour?

Wellywood

Too many Wellingtonians are reacting like humourless bores to the plan to erect a Wellywood sign at the entrance to Miramar.

Come on folks, don’t be so meanspirited!

Think what Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor and their team of filmic visionaries have done for our city.

Think about the loyalty shown by Jackson in insisting that Hollywood must come to his suburb, thus singlehandedly transforming Miramar into the world’s most unlikely movie mecca.

Think about the marketing value of crystallising that status into one whimsical word, and displaying that word to visitors.

Most of all, let’s show our fellow Kiwis that the wind hasn’t blown away our sense of humour.

I struck the same attitude when, in a letter to the editor, I christened our cosy little stadium the Cake Tin. What a fuss that still causes.

But as I pointed out then, this is a city where a Parliament building is called the Beehive, the cricket ground the Basin, and an old toilet block (now a Welsh restaurant) was known by all as the Taj Mahal.

In other words, quirky nicknames are part of our heritage. So let’s build on the tradition!

I hope Kerry Prendergast has the good sense to show leadership on this issue and override the kneejerk blurtings of the curmudgeons.

Humour, Language, NZ Poetry Society, Poetry, Tom Lehrer

Planning a new career

After a fun night performing silly poems, monologues and novelty songs at the Thistle, I’ve decided to try and do this full-time. 

By what I seriously hope was popular consent (!), my 30 minute slot finally ended after 75 minutes.

To fill out the time, I strayed from my poetry brief to include the monologue about rugby as a series of mathematical formulae that I wrote for Jim Hopkins as part of a Shell ad campaign in the 90s.

That went down well, so I thought I’d attempt to do justice to several songs by my all-time favourite lyricist Tom Lehrer.

One of these was The Elements Song – the one where Lehrer rattles off 102  elements from the periodic table in about 150 seconds to the tune of I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.

Check out this Flash-illustrated version of the original – oh, and see if you can spot the handful of uncharacteristic pronunciation errors 🙂

And don’t tell Mr Lehrer, but I took the liberty of adding another verse to include the elements discovered since his 1960 recording:

And then there was lawrencium
And hassium and dubnium,
Meitnerium and bohrium
And finally ununbium;
It’s next to unununium
And don’t forget seaborgium,
And also ununilium
And (Ernest) rutherfordium.

We’ll tell you any other ones
The minute they discover them,
And just in case you wondered
There are one hundred and twuv o’ them.

I’ve long thought it would be fun to spend my time touring schools and enthusing and amusing kids about our crazy language. But somehow, the grownup world and its baubles has always got in the way.

Well, no I’m going to give it a shot, and see what happens.

(I always make my life-changing decisions on the spur of the moment like this. If I think about it too much, sanity will prevail. Far better to back myself into a corner with a public announcement :-))

With a mix of conference speeches and school ‘word concerts’, I hope to keep my head above water doing what I love most.

If it works, it will be a vindication for Mum, who always said I should ditch the serious stuff and concentrate on the silly.

My speaking agent will hopefully be able to get me enough conference work to compensate for the lower fees paid by schools.

If anyone can point me to any schools that would welcome such an addition to their literacy programme, please email john@johnansell.co.nz.

Same if you know of any conference speaker-seekers needing a keynote or after-dinner speech about words.

Tell them I’d be happy to give them a demo down the phone. As soon as I can, I’ll put something on YouTube.

Thanks to Laurice Gilbert of the NZ Poetry Society for inviting me on Monday night.

NZ Poetry Society, Poetry, Thistle Inn

Guest poet at Thistle Inn tonight

The Thistle InnTonight (Monday) I have the honour of giving Wellington’s most recent poetry performance at the city’s oldest pub, The Thistle Inn in Mulgrave Street.

The Thistle dates all the way back to Wellington’s founding year, 1840.

There it is below in 1865 (the two-storeyed building) shortly before being fire-damaged in 1866.

These days the pub is separated from the sea by the railway yards and the Cake Tin. But before the 1876 reclamation, sailors could make a quick dash from the bar to their boats if need be.

One of my fellow poets is a descendant of Te Rauparaha, who by all accounts used to pull up his waka and enjoy a drink there.

The NZ Poetry Society hold their meetings upstairs from 7.30 – 9.30pm on the second Monday of every month, and they’ve asked me to be February’s  guest poet.

That’s good of them, given that I don’t exactly fit the poet stereotype.  My style is more silly verse a la Milligan and Ogden Nash.

I love the challenge of trying to create perfect rhymes without using my poetic licence and disrupting the flow of the story. Not easy, but good when it works.

Why not come down for a pint and a laugh? Better still, bring a poem and read in the open mic session that kicks off the evening.

Not sure how many will come given that the meeting is being promoted as the NZ Poetry Society’s January meeting 🙂

Architecture, Design, Gavin Bradley, Karl du Fresne, Saatchi & Saatchi, Te Papa, Wellington

Te Papa: what might have been


Museum of Mediterranean History, Reggio Calabria, Italy.

Karl du Fresne says the new head of Te Papa should tear the building down and start again.

I agree. From the outside, Te Papa is not a museum, it’s a mausoleum. One I resent having to see every time I fancy a stroll round Oriental Bay.

Te Papa
Te Papa: museum or mausoleum?

Contrast the above pile of rubble with what three other countries made of similar challenges – the Italian (top) and Dubai (below) examples both museums.

museum_east.jpg
Dubai Museum.

Selfridges Shopping Centre, Birmingham.

Can you imagine dear old Prince Charles cutting the ribbon on this whale-like structure? He’d probably have taken the scissors to his wrists instead.

But such a nautical theme would go well on the Wellington waterfront. (I do love that smooth disc cladding.)

I remember when the full horror of the Te Papa design was revealed, Gavin Bradley from Saatchis suggested a paua shell roof.

Another brilliant idea killed by the mediocracy.